Ecobee’s SmartCamera has received a firmware update that may interest Apple users who are feeling a little burnt-out on subscriptions. The camera, which doubled as an Alexa speaker when it launched this April, generally has the standard smart camera features: you can stream video from it to your phone for free, and with a $5-a-month subscription you can have it record video and notify you of any movement (or just human movement, if you prefer). But today’s update adds Apple HomeKit Secure Video support, and it may give you another, cheaper way to record and store that footage.
If you’re a little unfamiliar with the service, you’re probably not alone. HomeKit Secure Video was launched at WWDC in June of 2019, but so far only a handful of cameras support it. Like Ecobee’s service, it lets you stream video to your iOS devices for free, provided you have an Apple TV, HomePod, or stay-at-home iPad that can act as a HomeKit hub.
If you want to record video, you’ll need to pay for Apple’s 200GB iCloud subscription, which costs $2.99 a month. But that’s cheaper than Ecobee’s service, and also includes extra space for your iCloud backups, Apple Photo Library, etc. You won’t have to worry about all that recorded footage eating up your iCloud storage. As a HomeKit Secure Video user myself, I can tell you that Apple doesn’t count the video towards your storage limit (though the service only keeps recorded clips for 10 days, as opposed to Ecobee’s 14 days).
If you already have a device that can act as a hub, $2.99 a month versus $5 a month may seem like a good deal, and if you already pay for extra iCloud storage the service is included in your bill. It’s a bit of a harder sell if you also have to buy an Apple TV, HomePod, or iPad, though. If you want to record more than one camera, you’ll also see less savings: Apple requires the $9.99-a-month 2TB iCloud storage plan to record up to 5 cameras (Ecobee or otherwise), which is the same price you’ll pay for unlimited recording on multiple Ecobee cameras.
Before deciding to switch to HomeKit and ditch the Ecobee app, you should know that Ecobee tells The Verge that Apple’s Home app doesn’t support the camera’s ability to pan and tilt (other HomeKit cameras have the same limitation, too). You might want to keep the Ecobee app around for that, or buy a cheaper HomeKit camera to begin with. I personally use Homekit Secure Video to manage my Logitech Circle 2, and it works well for its primary purpose: not having to pay an extra monthly fee to see what terrible disaster my cat has caused during the night.